By Joseph Siegel
I was born into a non-practicing Jewish family. In fact, the only discussion of anything remotely “Jewish” came during the season of Yom Kippur and Hanukkah when the menorah with plastic orange bulbs was lit and placed on the window sill, but no one was able to explain why. However, throughout my life, I always knew, and believed in, one God.
My first encounter with Catholicism came after I met my wife, a Catholic, in college. We were married in a Catholic church. Religion was something we didn’t share, but I understood it was important to her. I sometimes accompanied her to church, but I didn’t pay much attention to what was happening.
Throughout my life, I felt I was in control and strong enough to handle daily challenges. But I soon learned that the one who is truly in charge is God. Two years ago, I became extremely ill with COVID. I was hospitalized for more than three months. It was during this illness that I saw the hand of God at work.
I was in daily phone contact with my wife, we prayed together, and I am still amazed at how strong and calm she is in the face of death. Family, friends and strangers prayed for my health. To this day my doctors tell me that they can count on one hand how many people in my condition survived. I believe my wife’s faith in Jesus Christ pulled me through. Throughout my illness, I started to know Jesus through prayer on my own.
This led me to inquire about salvation and eternal life. I felt I owed Jesus my life.
My wife told me: ‘we don’t bargain with Jesus’. But I strongly felt I needed to get closer to Him. Jesus was always in my life, thanks to my wife, but now I wanted Him there because of me. For two years I have been on a journey to learn the Catholic faith through the RCIA program at Our Lady of Angels Church.
I have learned that to be Catholic means to be part of a community that puts its trust in Jesus. I realized I was given a taste of this trust as I was lying in a hospital bed, not knowing what tomorrow was going to bring. To be Catholic means you become a new person, a follower of Christ willing to share His example of love with the world.
So on April 16, 2022, I received the sacrament of Initiation and became part of the Catholic Church. Since then I began a lifelong journey of loving and trusting God with all my heart, soul and mind.
Joseph Siegel received the Sacraments of Initiation at Our Lady of Angels Church, Bay Ridge, this past Easter Vigil.